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Try Our Local News Sniff Test and Smell Tests

local newspaper sniff test and smell test

See Through News’s simple tests to determine how ethical your local paper is.

Local News Sniff Test

See Through News’ Local Newspaper project to promote ethical local journalism, The See Through News Newspaper Review Project is pleased to introduce our prototype Local News Sniff Test.

We seek your help in road-testing and refining it. The Sniff Test is a kind of local journalism version of Hollywood’s Bechdel Test, designed to determine whether your local paper (and/or website) is: 

  1. a fragrant vibrant local paper practising ethical journalism, or
  2. a reeking shrivelled zombie doing corporate advertising
  3. somewhere between these two states

 The 3-step test takes a few minutes, and gets faster with practice. 

  1. Take your local paper’s Top Ten Stories on any given day/issue – most have a handy list in a Daily Briefing email.
  2. Assign one of the Categories to each story.
  3. Tot up the points

The mark out of ten will reveal if your local paper is:

  • A Fragrant Flower. 7-10 Points:

Inhale deeply. Proper ethical local journalism

  • A Bit Whiffy. 4-7 Points

May be on the way out. Hold at arm’s length.

  • A Stinker. 0-3 Points:

Oooft. Bag it before you bin it. 


Here’s our list of categories, and points assigned. 1 Point:

  • Human-written original local Content = Local News

0.5 Points

  • Labelled Advertorial = Advertorial
  • Significantly tweaked press release = Journalism?
  • User-Generated Content (i.e. reader-supplied) = UGC
  • Content slightly beyond local scope = Not Local News

0 Points:

  • Untweaked press release/online info = Advertising
  • Bylined press release/online info = Advertising
  • Possible Disguised Advertorial = Advertorial?
  • Content way beyond local scope = Really Not Local News
  • Algorithm-written Content = Robot Article
  • Bylined Robot Article = Fake Journalism

 Please try our Sniff Test to score your local newspaper, and post your results here, or even better, in our local newspaper review Facebook Group, including a link to the source for peer review.